Essay, Research Paper: Young Goodman Brown Essay

Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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What is blind Faith? Faith is accepting what you are taught or told without
trying to prove or disprove it, rather than discovering it through experience.
Atheism suggests that those who believe in God have blind faith-and they do. It
has not been proven that God exists; similarly, it has not been proven that
humans are kind, honest, and good by nature. Young Goodman Brown is a character
in "Young Goodman Brown," who leaves his known world in Salem village
and travels an unknown road in a dark forest in the middle of the night, a
common motif in literature better known as the Hero's journey, and is faced
withobstacles. He must decide if he will carry his journey out till the end, or
turn back and not learn the truth about himself and other humans. The story
"Young Goodman Brown," by Nathaniel Hawthorne traces Young Goodman
Brown's experiences, physical and psychological, paralleling the Hero's Journey
and showing how he discovers that humans are truly evil by nature; therefore,
altering his views of other humans and life itself. In the beginning of the
story, Goodman Brown is faced with a decision to stay home with his wife another
night or to take off on his journey. This parallels his psychological decision
to leave behind all that he knew to be true up until that point and discover the
truth no matter how harsh it may be. The call, from the Hero's journey, is when
Goodman Brown decides to go out alone to discover himself. Faith, his wife, is
urging him to stay with her instead of leaving that night. She almost convinces
Brown to stay, but his desire to discover himself overpowers his desire to stay
with Faith. The struggle going on inside of Goodman Brown's head is really
between remaining innocent and having blind faith in the nature of man or
embarking on the journey to discover his true self, no matter what that may be.
The threshold, or jumping off point for Brown, is when he has made his final
decision to ignore his wife's pleas and take his journey. It is ironic when
Faith finally lets him go and says, "Then God bless you! …and may you
find all well when you come back" (pg. 87). He is only gone one night and
nothing substantial changes in Salem village while he is gone, but since he is
so dramatically changed emotionally during his excursion, he remains sad and
distrustful for the rest of his life, due to knowing the truth about human
nature. Young Goodman Brown must leave behind his known world, Salem village,
and enter an unknown world, the forest, to face challenges he must be capable of
overcoming. Allegorically, he embarks on a psychological and spiritual odyssey.
Entering an unknown territory is scary and puts a person at a much higher
physical and emotional risk. "There may be a devlish Indian behind every
tree" shows how insecure Young Goodman Brown is in the forest because he is
exposing himself to danger, which in this case, is evil itself (pg. 88). He must
stay strong and overcome his weaknesses to get past his biggest fears and
continue his Hero's journey. Goodman Brown is tempted to turn around and go
home, but he sticks it out, and continues onward. Goodman Brown remarks,
"What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" just before
noticing a man, similar in appearance to himself, sitting under a tree (pg. 88).
This man speaks as if he was expecting Brown although Brown is a little shocked
to see him. He represents the previously unrecognized evil nature of Young
Goodman Brown, possibly the devil himself. Although Goodman Brown is reluctant
to continue, this man convinces him to go just a little further. Goodman Brown
tries to explain why he wishes to turn back by saying, "My father never
went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a
race of honest men and good Christians…" (pg. 89). The man replies that
he has walked this road with all Brown's ancestors before, and therefore,
convinces Brown to continue the path. Also, the man must explain that even
people who appear dignified and honorable such as the minister, have taken the
path. Young Goodman Brown comes across Goody Cloyce who taught him his catechism
in youth, as well as the minister and Deacon Gookin who were his spiritual and
moral advisors. Seeing them on the same path was more assuring, but at the same
time made him begin to doubt mankind. The abyss in "Young Goodman
Brown" is when he sees his wife, Faith. Goodman Brown hears Faith's voice,
and it appears that "…both saints and sinners seemed to encourage her
onward." (Pg. 94) The call of Goodman Brown's voice is desperately crying
out to his Faith. The cloud of voices sweeps away and Goodman Brown is left in
solitude. Now, he realizes that the one person who he truly loves and believes
to be pure and good has an evil nature, too. Brown cries "There is no good
on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil, for thee is this world given"
(pg. 94) He willingly charges forward down the path from that point on. Once he
is with the congregation and is brought forth before everyone, along with Faith,
he tries again to save Faith's soul by telling her to look to the heavens, but
does not know if she does or not. He is then baptized with a red liquid by the
hand of evil. Although Young Goodman Brown felt a "…loathful brotherhood
by the sympathy of all that was wicked in his heart" he could not ever
return to a state of blind faith upon returning home (pg. 97). Goodman Brown has
been enlightened and now understands that human nature is evil. He has
discovered what he was looking for and can return back to his known world, Salem
village. The gift of truth has been bestowed upon him. Young Goodman Brown
returns to his home the next morning as a new man. Throughout the rest of his
life, Goodman Brown does not see the people he once thought he knew the true
nature of the same as he used to. Hawthorne states, "A stern, a sad, a
darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the
night of that fearful dream" (pg. 100). Even Young Goodman Brown's
"…dying hour was gloom" (pg. 100). His life was changed so
drastically during that one night that he could never forget it. Through the
Hero's journey, Hawthorne shows the development of Young Goodman Brown as he
discovers his true nature as evil. He comes to terms with the reality that
humans are evil creatures, no matter how honorable or innocent they may seem.
Transformations, both physical and psychological, took place during Goodman
Brown's expedition, but were these changes necessarily good ones? Which is
better: to have grace and innocence, but be happy with life, or to know the
truth although it may hurt to know it? There is a cliché used to explain a good
point of view that says, "what you don't know can't hurt you." Young
Goodman Brown would have led a happier life if he remained innocent, but at
least he received something good from his journey, knowledge and truth.
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